How do you respond when life doesn’t make sense? What do you do when loved ones make decisions that contradict everything you taught them? Wrestle with that question for a moment. Do you throw your hands up? Do you take their decision personally, as if you were directly responsible for their actions? Do you grow angry with God? Do you doubt his power or presence?
All of these are understandable reactions, but none of them reveal a heart that is at rest, a heart that is trusting in God’s good providence.
If any of these sentiments resonate with you, I pray you will find encouragement from our passage this morning.
Samson’s birth narrative has been carefully laid out in chapter 13 preparing us for an important character in redemptive history. We anticipate him doing great things since the announcement of his birth came directly from the angel of the Lord (Judges 13:3). He was the only child of a woman who had been barren (Judges 13:2) and he was to be a Nazarite from birth (Judges 13:4-5). Finally, we also read that the Spirit of the Lord was stirring him (Judges 13:25).
You may find yourself going back and forth on your impression of Samson as you read along. Try to note what is problematic about Samson’s actions.
Read Judges 14:1-20.
1. Samson’s Providential Marriage (1-10)
1-2 How should we understand Samson’s decision to marry a Philistine?
3 There can be no doubt that it was wrong for Samson to request a wife from among the Philistines, as his parents clearly understood. Part of the Lord’s complaint against Israel was reflected in…
Judges 3:5–6 ESV
So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.
Marriage to the nations was prohibited (Exod. 34:16; Deut. 7:3).
4 But what about this being “from the Lord.” God will use this relationship to bring judgment upon the Philistines. God will use this for his glory, but that does not justify Samson’s sinful motivations.
Judges and Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary The First Love of Samson (14:1–4)
R. de Vaux observes, ‘Samson’s marriage has close similarities with a form found among Palestinian Arabs, in that it is a true marriage but without permanent cohabitation. The woman is mistress of her own house, and the husband, known as joz musarrib, “a visiting husband,” comes as a guest and brings presents.’
That certainly fits the rest of the narrative and reveals something of Samson’s mixed motives whenever he gets involved with women (cf. Judges 15:1; 16:1, 4).
5-6 The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Samson giving him the strength to kill a lion with his bare hands (cf. 13:25; 14:19, 15:14).
What does this mean? We have seen similar activity of the Spirit in other accounts of Judges (Othniel 3:10; Gideon 6:34; Jephthah 11:20). It occurred once in previous episodes, but four times here. It is not a definitive reference to the quality of an individual’s character, but it does seem to indicate the Lord’s will in a situation.
The Spirit of the Lord also rushed upon Saul and David. In the case of David, there are additional parallels with his killing of lions and bears in preparation for his defeat of the Philistines (1 Sam. 17:34-37). This is our first preview of the Lord’s strength revealed through Samson.
Samson doesn’t inform his parents, but the reader understands to Whom the glory is due.
7 Apparently, for Samson, it was love at first sight (vv.1-2). But, now he is able to interact with the woman and is left with a favorable impression of her.
Here we want to tell Samson, “Slow down. Listen to your parents. You hardly know this woman.”
8-9 After some time had passed, Samson was ready to marry the woman. Upon his return he notices a swarm of bees had formed a hive in the carcass of the lion he had killed. So Samson scrapes out some honey for himself to eat.
Was touching the carcass of a lion breaking the Nazarite vow?
The corpse is specifically human, not animal.
Numbers 6:6–7 ESV
“All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head.
He gave some of the honey to his parents, but once again, he doesn’t inform them about where the honey came from.
Why does the author emphasize Samson’s secrecy? Is he indicating that Samson was a deceitful person?
I don’t think so. As we see in the next section, it has to do with the riddle. The narrator is setting up the scene to show that Samson has kept this incident to himself.
Dale Ralph Davis does a good job of summarizing the structure of this chapter based upon the verb for “goes down” and the secrets mentioned by the author:
vv.1-4 Samson goes down to Timnah and sees a woman. Secret of Yahweh’s purpose.
vv.5-6 Samson – with father and mother – goes down to Timnah. Secret of slaying the lion.
vv.7-9 Samson goes down and talks with the woman. Secret of the honey.
vv.10-18 His father goes down to the woman and Samson puts on a drinking feast. Secret of the riddle.
vv.19-20 Samson goes down to Ashkelon and kills thirty Philistines. Climax: the power of Yahweh’s Spirit.
10 Samson prepares a wedding feast for his wife.
Does feasting imply that Samson drank wine (vv.10, 17)?
Numbers 6:3 ESV
he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried.
Only those with a preconceived notion of his guilt would suggest such an interpretation of this passage.
Once again God is showing his providential care: “…his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions” (WSC Q.11).
Is God sovereign even when we are not aware of his actions? Of course. But is that the case with Samson?
Samson is a flawed judge who possessed great faith (Heb. 11:32). However, his lust for women leads to his downfall. Once again, we are reminded that we need a better judge. We need a perfect judge. Sin was present in every judge (as well as every prophet, priest, and king) until Jesus Christ came in the weakness of our flesh and overcame every sinful temptation, avoided every evil snare, and never married idolatry.
We’ll come back around to this in a bit, but…
› In conjunction with the wedding, God was also orchestrating the means for…
2. Samson’s Providential Riddle (11-20)
11 His wife invites thirty companions to attend their wedding feast.
12-13 Samson bets thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes that the Philistines won’t be able to figure out his riddle.
14 The reader immediately knows the answer to the riddle, but since Samson had not told anyone it seems unlikely that the Philistines would be able to solve it.
15 Here we see a parallel between the hotheaded Ephraimites (12:1) and the Philistines who escalate things rather quickly with a threat to burn their household down. They have the family in mind, not the structure of the home.
16-17 Samson’s wife wept before him until the end of the feast (days 4-7). She eventually compels him to tell her the answer to his riddle. This foreshadows his far greater error in divulging the secret of his strength to Delilah in a few chapters. In both cases, his downfall was cajoling women (Judges 14:16; 16:16).
18 The Philistines answer Samson’s riddle and he knows it is only because they have heard it from his wife.
19a The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Samson so that he is able to pay his debt by killing thirty Philistines who occupied Ashkelon (which was in Judah’s territory, cf. Judges 1:18). This is the “opportunity against the Philistines” (v.4) the Lord was seeking. How anyone gives Samson a bad rap for this is beyond me.
19b-20 He returns home in anger, understandably so. While he’s gone his wife is given to his best man! Once again, the narrative leaves us with a sympathetic outlook upon Samson. His wife showed more loyalty to her companions, one of whom ends up marrying her while Samson was away.
How could God ordain an ungodly marriage in order to judge an ungodly people?
This is one of the mysteries that dates back to God’s decree of man’s first sin. God has foreordained the wicked actions of men, yet he is not the author of their sin. Men remains fully responsible for their sinful actions.
It reminds us of our finite wisdom. J. Gresham Machen writes:
Yes, God has told us much. Is it surprising that he has not told us all? I do not think so, my friends. After all, we are but finite creatures. Is it surprising that there are some mysteries which God in his infinite goodness and wisdom has hidden from our eyes? Is it surprising that there are some things in his counsels about which he has bidden us be content not to know but instead just to trust him who knows all?
I do believe Samson was aware of the Spirit working through him. The Spirit of the Lord strengthened Samson to kill a lion with his bare hands (v.6) and, later on, empowers him to strike down thirty Philistines (v.19). His supernatural strength can only be explained by God’s powerful presence within him. How could he explain it any other way?
The Spirit of God reveals divine activity (supernatural power) in a personal way (Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson)
However, I think we can also learn something from the witness of Manoah and his wife. Their anxieties regarding their sons marriage stemmed from their lack of knowledge.
Judges 14:4 ESV
His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
I’m not suggesting that they would have had no objections to the marriage. I think they were right to raise their objections. However, they might have been able to remember the promises God had given them about their son, and trusted in his sovereign purposes.
Samson is a confusing figure. His narrative is filled with ambiguous situations.
I can’t imagine any parent envisioning this kind of marriage for their child, but this is the marriage God clearly ordained for Samson. It was an emotionally painful and short-lived marriage that God used to accomplish the beginning of his judgment upon the Philistines.
And one thing is abundantly clear throughout the story, God remained in complete control. Samson’s Marriage was providential (1-9) as well as the riddle he gave to his wife’s companions (10-20). Both experiences setup the beginning of deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines.
Can you relate to all of the ambiguity in Samson’s life? Do you resonate with his parent’s lack of knowledge?
God may be accomplishing his greatest purposes in situations where we are given the least amount of knowledge.
Even though Jesus had repeatedly warned his disciples about his death, every single one of them were caught off guard. If they understood what Jesus was saying, they simply didn’t believe it would actually happen. They certainly weren’t prepared for it to happen how and when it did. Their experiential knowledge of Christ’s redemptive plan was minimal. So they were shocked and horrified when he died.
And yet, on the cross, God was accomplishing his greatest purpose. On the cross, Jesus Christ finished the work of redeeming the elect from the condemning oppression of their own sin. He condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). He rose again defeating death. And he ever lives to intercede for all who place their faith in him.
Do you believe the gospel in the face of life’s uncertainty? Are you believing the gospel even now? If not, I urge you to turn away from your sin to the only judge, Jesus Christ, who completed the work that was necessary for anyone to be saved.